Rationality and supporting a football club rarely go hand in hand. In fact, there are few things in life that make us so inured to objective thinking as being a fan. We catastrophize, and then in a blink of an eye are prone to insane levels of optimism. We castigate players for the most minor of mistakes and then lionise them for doing something right. We are convinced that our side suffers nothing but ill fortune while others enjoy all the luck in the world, and then deny similar allegations made against us by other fans.
We might think ourselves as a class above the rest (another symptom of irrationality) but we Evertonians are as guilty as most when it comes to the protective shield we employ against clear thinking. Just a casual scan of social media after a match illustrates the fluidity of thought that characterises the Everton psyche.
‘Davies is boss’, ‘Davies is shite’, ‘Why isn’t Lookman playing?’ ‘Lookman can fuck off!’, ‘Coleman should be captain’ ‘Coleman should be dropped’ etc etc etc.
No football fan will ever view what happens at their club with the cold, analytical, emotionless approach of a Vulcan. It’s a game in which we emotionally invest. It’s not like going to the pictures, the theatre or watching a band live. I really enjoyed the last Avengers film, but at no point did I stand up and start shouting ‘Fuck off Thanos’, begin screaming at Spider-Man to ‘get stuck in, you webbed fuck’, or appealingly yelled ‘Come on Avengers, these are shite’.
Football moves people in ways that other mediums of entertainment can only dream of. It can leave you elated, despondent, drained. And all that can happen in just a few minutes. And it stays with you too. The result can taint a weekend or put a skip in your step for days to come.
Set against all of that, it is unsurprising that rationality is such a rare quality. And for us Blues, this has been accentuated by events in recent years.
The post-Moyes-era has been a difficult one to navigate. In the space of just a few seasons we have been exposed to both ends of the financial spectrum (from the skint era of the Kenwright’s twilight in control to the bountiful times of Moshiri), an array of football styles that could not be further removed from each other and, even by Everton’s standards, false dawns by the hatful.
With so much upheaval, it’s unsurprising that our critical reasoning might be considerably askew. This is particularly the case because prior to this period of turmoil, we had enjoyed a decade of relative stability under Moyes. It was a time when we knew the finances were tight, when we knew the football would lack glamour, when expectations were only raised increment by increment.
And then followed a period of ups and downs that would have unsettled most fans, let alone a
group emerging from the comfort of certainty and whom seem to have a propensity to bounce erratically around the emotional spectrum anyway.
Introducing the Everton Mishmash!
But although understandable, our current state of irrationality isn’t helping. After the recent draw against Huddersfield a tiny minority were out on social media calling for Silva to be sacked. That’s a brand new manager, who had enjoyed just four games in charge, who had spent the summer clearing out the dross of the previous couple of regimes, who had only benefited from a short pre season and who had yet to bring most of his recent acquisitions into the side.
Those calling for his head might be on the unhinged fringes, but they remain representative of a an irrational tendency that is evident elsewhere and which can quickly spread through the fanbase, like a dose of the wildies.
The problem that Everton face at the moment is that performances like that against Huddersfield will happen again. This is a work in progress. After the shite of Koeman, Walsh and Allardyce, Everton need to rebuild. And rebuilding rarely occurs without faltering steps. Form will dip, pick up and dip again, sides we should beat will take points off us and there will be times when the football of the recent past, hesitancy going forward, weakness in defence, an inability to create, will rear its ugly head.
As emotional fans, when faced with the above our anger will inevitably yearn for expression. But it should be focused on those areas worthy of anger, such as a lack of effort or the wrong attitude. And not, instead, at players having a dip in form, a manager trying to find his feet, a team learning to play in a new way.
Tom Davies encapsulates our current problem. Here is a young player who has been blooded during a difficult period. Although you can feel disappointed in his form, nobody can fault his attitude as he has tried to cement a place in the starting eleven during a time, which, for a young player, must be exceptionally challenging. And yet, Davies has on occasion become a focal point for much of the anger that gets applied to the current squad, a lad who is almost being written off by some before his Everton career has even really begun.
Most fans go to the game for a sense of emotional connection. But that connection comes at a cost. It blurs the mind, muddies the water, makes us unable to think clearly. At its worst, such thinking can sour atmospheres, ruin careers, cause managers to get the sack.
At Everton right now, the overwhelming majority are still feeling the positivity that hangs over from the summer and which has been boosted by a regime change and signs of good football. But we all know how fast that can change. There were boos against Huddersfield, players singled out for abuse, a hint of the sourness that had characterised last season. For the sake of this latest brave new dawn, we need to take a step back. More than we have for some time, we Evertonians need a dose of rationality.